The South Fork of the Flathead is known in the fly fishing world as the Mecca for dry-fly cutthroat fishing. Located in the 1.5 million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness, America’s first ever designated wilderness area, the South Fork is formed from the junction of Danaher Creek and Young’s Creek. From here, it runs 45 miles due north, fed by dozens of small tributaries, where it exits the wilderness near Spotted Bear Ranger Station. This trip completely transects the wilderness area from south to north, right through the deepest, most remote area of the “Bob."
LOCATION: Western Montana
SEASON: July and August
CAPACITY: 4 to 8 anglers
CLOSEST MAJOR AIR HUB: Great Falls (GTF) and Kalispell (FCA)
TARGET SPECIES: Cutthroat and bull trout
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED: Montana fishing license
CONTACT US FOR MORE INFO 888-777-5060 INTL 01-1-406-585-8667 info [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com
When you arrive in camp at the end of each day, spacious two-person tents are already pitched, camp is set up, and drinks are ready. A hearty and delicious streamside dinner will provide the perfect end to a day in the wilderness. Stare into the campfire, enjoy a glass of wine, think about the rises of the day, or the “one that got away,” the hook-ups to come in the morning. Swap stories with your friends and watch the last flicker of sunset slip below the mountaintops. A tent, cots and ThermaRest pads are included. Dry bags are provided for each client, allowing you to pack your gear in waterproof bags and keep your clothing safe and dry on the river.
Food and Beverages
Appetizers and beverages await your arrival each evening after a full day on the river. Enjoy hearty, “camp-style” Western meals featuring fresh salads, entrees such as Bison tacos or rib-eye steaks grilled over an open fire, and apple crisp baked in a Dutch oven. Dinner wine is provided. The nature of a pack in wilderness trip creates limitations on weight. There will be beer, but it is considered a luxury and will be cherished during the trip. You are welcome to BYOB.
Typical Length of Stay
This deluxe wilderness trip starts with a day and a half horseback ride, and from there covers about 45 miles by raft through the scenic and remote Bob Marshall Wilderness. This is usually a seven (7) day trip, but may be extended.
Non-Angling Activities and Options
While the South Fork is a great angling adventure, non-anglers will no doubt enjoy the trip just as much. Wildlife is abundant throughout the river corridor. Deer, elk, the occasional black bear or mountain goat, eagles and other birds of prey, migratory songbirds search the bushes and the sky for an unsuspecting stonefly. A mid-day hike in the foothills may be rewarded with the treasure of an elk "shed" or deer antler. Although this is grizzly bear country, they are rarely seen. Hiking, eating great food, reading and – above all – relaxing in one of the Lower 48’s most remote places are all important elements of this trip.
Internet / Communications
There is no wireless or cell service in the canyon. Each outfit will have a satellite phone, and/or a US Forest Service radio that can be used to contact rangers in the event of an emergency. If you anticipate needing any communication during the trip it is highly recommended that you rent a satellite phone of your own.
Fly fishing on the South Fork is known to be some of the best in the world. Due to its wilderness isolation, the river and its tributaries remain lightly fished, and the result is that the quality of the fishery is as good now as it was many decades ago. Skilled anglers can catch over 100 fish per rod on good days, but it is common for each boat to land 40+ native cuts a day. These cutthroat range in size, but there are many in the 12 to 18 inch range, and they love to rise to dry flies!
The South Fork is also one of the only places where an angler can catch the native bull trout. The South Fork Drainage is the largest stronghold of these native Char in the Lower 48 states. These lurkers act like an anadromous species, migrating upstream every July from Hungry Horse Reservoir. Lucky anglers have brought to hand bull trout in excess of 30 inches. Because the South Fork lies within the Bob Marshall Wilderness, special regulations and permits apply. There are only a few commercial outfitting permits on the river, and we are lucky to have an exclusive relationship with one of these outfitters.
Trips begin in Great Falls and end in Kalispell. That means that guests need to book their incoming flight into the Great Falls International Airport (GTF) and their outgoing flight out of the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). Upon arrival in Great Falls, guests are picked up by members of the outfitter and then taken to their chosen hotel accommodations for an overnight stay. The next morning it's off to the trailhead (1.5 hour drive) to meet up with the pack team and start a full day's ride into the first night's camp at Danaher Creek. The next day, it's then a half day ride into Big Prairie where the South Fork of the Flathead is formed. Guests will overnight at this location for the next two nights while walking and wading the South Fork of the Flathead. On the fourth day, the group launches to start the 3.5 day float. On the seventh and final day, the group typically makes it to the take-out point at Mid Creek in the afternoon and then it's a 3 mile walk (1 hour) out the Meadow Creek Trailhead. Upon arrival at the trailhead, everyone is then transferred to their chosen accommodations is Kalispell for an overnight stay, and then it's their responsibility to get themselves to the airport the following day to catch their departure flight for home.
How To Get There
If your plan is to fly to Montana on a commercial airline, we recommend that you make reservations as soon as possible once you have firm river dates. Flights need to be into the Great Falls International Airport (GTF) and outgoing flights out of the Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) which is located just outside of Kalispell.
Arrival and Departure Details / Times
You must schedule a flight that arrives into Great Falls in the afternoon the day before your trip officially begins. The next morning, you will be picked up at your hotel and then taken to the trailhead. The last day of the trip is a big day! You will usually be off the river between 12PM to 1PM, to the trailhead by around 3PM, and then back to your chosen hotel in Kalispell by around 6PM to 7PM. You will need to arrange for a hotel room in Kalispell for the evening on which your trip ends.
Montana fishing licenses are available at all area fly shops and sporting goods stores, or online by visiting the following website: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. You will need to present a valid driver's license in order to purchase your fishing license.
Yellow Dog offers a full in-house travel and reservations system, and can assist with airline tickets, hotels, transfers, and all travel logistics for every destination that we offer. Contact us at 888-777-5060 or travel [at] yellowdogflyfishing [dot] com for more details on airfare ticketing, travel services and trip insurance.
Remember that Yellow Dog's services are completely free! When you book a trip with Yellow Dog, you never pay more than when you book directly with the lodge or outfitter. All prices listed below are per person and quoted in US dollars.
Float Trips = $5,950.00 per person
2018 Trip Dates
June 25 - July 1
July 3 - 9
July 6 - 13
July 10 - 16
July 13 - 19
July 20 - 26
July 23 - 29
July 30 - August 5
August 2 - 8
August 9 - 15
August 12 - 18
- Ground transportation from accommodations in Great Falls to the Benchmark Trailhead
- (6) nights of camping accommodations in the backcountry (1 tent per 2 guests)
- (1) day of walk/wade fishing on the South Fork of the Flathead at Big Prairie
- (3.5) days of floating the South Fork of the Flathead (2 anglers per raft)
- Sleeping cots and pads
- Dry bags for your belongings
- All meals and non-alcoholic beverages
- Use of rods, reels, and other tackle (can be provided if requested in advance)
- All flies and terminal tackle
- Floatation vests
- River usage fees
- Ground transportation from Meadow Creek Trailhead to Kalispell on the last day of the trip
What's Not Included
- Incoming night lodging
- Outgoing night lodging in Kalispell
- Transportation to airport
- Gratuities for guides and staff
- Alcoholic beverages (BYO - no glass bottles)
- Fishing licenses
- Waders and boots (no studs) - bring if trip is before July 20
- Sleeping bags (can be provided at an additional cost if requested in advance)
- Pillow and other items of a personal nature
- Private vehicle shuttle costs (if needed)
PACKING LIST for SOUTH FORK OF THE FLATHEAD PACK/FLOAT TRIP
- One pair of jeans (that you do not intend to wear again after the horseback portion of the trip)
- Long sleeve shirt (a little heavier than fishing weight)
- Pair of sturdy hiking boots, but not too aggressive of a sole. (you want to be able to go in and out of stirrups, but also be able to jump down and walk for a while – Cowboy boots are not recommended, unless you wear them regularly)
- Wide brimmed hat. Straw cowboy hat, fishing hat, etc.
- Bandana, or “Buff” brand style face cover to help with dust
- Optional – Very small “Fanny Pack” style bag to hold sunscreen, camera, etc. while on the horse. (Saddle bags will be on the saddle to hold a few essentials.)
- Some people choose to wear gel-padded cycling shorts under their jeans to help stay comfortable in the saddle
- Also, if you have knee problems, it is helpful to wear neoprene sleeve knee braces.
- A soft bag or nylon duffel bag up to 15" diameter so that it can be stuffed into our dry bags or packed on horses. ***if you plan on traveling with a hard-sided bag or a bag with rollers, you must pack another simple soft duffle inside to repack into as roller bags cannot go on the mules.
- Small dry bag or daypack for gear you might need on the river.
- A small pillow
- Warm sleeping bag. (The outfitter can provide this, please let us know in advance.)
- One bath towel and two hand towels.
- 2 heavy trash bags for wet/dirty clothes.
- Bring a camera, binoculars, sun screen and insect repellent.
- Ibuprofen and baby wipes are very nice when needed.
River Portion- Clothing
- Polar fleece sweat shirt or wool sweater.
- Polar Fleece hat (nice to sleep in if it gets cold)
- Ball cap/fishing hat.
- A warm jacket even in August.
- A pair of polypro long underwear. These are essential in spring and fall
- Smartwool Socks.
- Shorts or a swimsuit.
- River sandals or wading boots. (river is extremely slippery- felt is highly recommended over non slip rubber)
- Before July 20th -Breathable chest waders. Chest waders with a raincoat will keep you dry! (Optional- if you choose not to bring waders, a quality rain suit is a must)
- Two long sleeved shirts (fishing type.)
- Two pairs of pants. (The quick-dry, zip-off leg pants are nice.)
- Good rain gear!!!! (If you are wet you will be miserable! If there is one thing you don’t overlook, this is it. If you have been waiting to buy a nice Simms jacket, this is the year to do it!)
- One pair of dry shoes for around the camp. (may be same or different from riding boots)
- Polarized sunglasses.
- Wide Brim hat (same as above)
- Small Day pack/ dry bag (same as above)
- Small Fly Vest/chest pack (should fit in above day pack)
- Fly Rods – 1 to 2 rods, if you bring one, it should probably be a 9’ 5wt. if you bring two, you could bring a 5wt and a 6wt, or add a 4wt, (most of the fishing will be with dry flies, but if you intend to fish for Bull Trout, you may want to bring the heavier 6wt+ for streamers)
Having listed all of the above, please try to keep your bag(s) as light and compact as possible due to limited space on the rafts and horses.